With today’s news of California’s governor signing the bill that makes his state become the 5th US state to allow euthanasia, this topic is fresh on my mind, and is likely fresh on the minds of Christians around the country. How should we, as Christians, think of this topic of euthanasia? What is euthanasia, and should we, as Christians, advocate its legality? These are very important questions for us to consider, and indeed very complex questions.
So what is euthanasia? Commonly referred to as “mercy killing,” Webster defines euthanasia as “the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.” The issue really boils down to this: Should an individual (or a family member) have the option, in the case of severe and incurable disease and pain, to have physicians administer drugs to end their life?
Now we must make a distinction between two different types of euthanasia.
- Passive Euthanasia — This is the decision by an individual to discontinue medications and treatments that are prolonging life and suffering, and simply letting “nature take its course.” I do think that this “passive euthanasia” can be performed or advocated by Christians. In the cases of extreme pain and inevitable death, it is simply the decision not to prolong the suffering by use of medication.
- Active Euthanasia — On the other hand, active euthanasia is the intentional and deliberate choice to take certain medications that would actively bring on death. As opposed to passive euthanasia, which is simply choosing to passively let happen what is going to happen, active euthanasia takes a person’s life, or death, into his or her own hands, and chooses to actively bring on death to end suffering.
It is this Active Euthanasia that we are talking about in this post. It is this Active Euthanasia that I think Christians should by no means advocate or take part in, and should fight in whatever way they are able to prevent its legalization. Why? Let me give you 5 reasons:
(1) The Sanctity of Life Made In The Image of God
The Bible is clear, from the very beginning to the very end, that life is precious to God and that every single man, woman, and child are made in His image. So no matter the pain involved, the suffering experienced, the incapacities of the person in question, that person is made in the image of God and that person’s life is important and precious to God.
(2) God’s Sovereignty Over Life and Death
In passages throughout the Scriptures — most notably Job 14:5 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 — it is made abundantly clear that God is absolutely sovereign over everything, including life, death, and our bodies. He gives life, and He controls death. To advocate Active Euthanasia is to put the power of death in the hands of a man or woman, or in the hands of a doctor, rather than recognizing God’s sovereignty over death.
(3) Suffering Can Glorify God
The Bible is replete with examples and exhortations on the purpose of suffering and its role in bringing glory to God (see Job; 1 Peter; 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; John 21:19; Romans 5:3-5, 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 3:10; James 1:2-4). The question, then, must be asked: For the person suffering, is ending life the only option? Or could there be more glory brought to God through that person experiencing the suffering and pointing his/her hope to Christ alone in the midst of the suffering?
(4) The Finality of Death and Temporality of Emotions
Simply put: Death is final; emotions are not. Therefore, to make an emotional decision that results in death, no matter if that decision is made with the best of intentions, is a decision that is irreversible.
(5) Danger of Abuse and The Slippery Slope
The life of the unborn is something that is already completely devalued in our culture through the legalization of abortion. Now, the value of the life of the elderly and/or terminally ill is being called into question. As we, as a culture, devalue the beginning of life and now the end of life, it is inevitable that life in general will be devalued. Where will it stop? I cannot say, but I can guarantee that there will be another scenario come up that will use the devaluing of life and the legalization of euthanasia as the “proof-text” for whatever is to come next.
We, as Christians, must be those that advocate the sanctity of life from beginning to end, from the seemingly best to worst quality of life. We, as Christians, must fight for the rights of humans, from those in the womb to those on the deathbed, and everyone in between. And that fight for life begins with knowledge — with understanding what euthanasia is, why it matters, and what is at stake in this debate.
I hope and pray that this is helpful to you as you think through this issue. Please comment below if you have any thoughts, questions, etc that I may be able to help with.
For more information on this topic, click below for some a couple very helpful books …
Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today
Ethics for a Brave New World, Second Edition (Updated and Expanded)